“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Archive for October 7th, 2010

The Benin Plaque And History.

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I think a lot of people are put off by history when they first do it, or from the tales of Kings and Queens or dry meaningless legislation which finds no resonance in their lives.

I suspect much of it has to do with the problem of constructing national narratives in Britain, France, Germany and parts of Europe. It is hard for them to actually reflect what really happened, because invariably they are nationalistic in outlook, if not content.

The development of Nation states is rarely that compact or insulated, as the Benin Plaque demonstrates. Neil MacGregor in A History of the World in 100 Objects does a marvellous job of enriching our appreciation of a wider, connected history.

This programme can be downloaded as an MP3 here.

Written by modernityblog

07/10/2010 at 14:49

Poland And Torture?

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I just caught a clip with Dick Marty, from the Council of Europe, where he discusses Poland’s involvement in the CIA’s programme of torture and rendition.

It certainly is very damning:

“On 7 March 2003 a CIA Gulfstream Jet landed at a remote airstrip in north-eastern Poland. Human rights officials and campaigners are convinced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of the most senior al-Qaeda suspects, was on board.

American agents took him to a secret facility where, he says, he was tortured before being eventually transferred to Guantanamo Bay.

The secret transfer of CIA prisoners is said to have taken place in both Poland and Lithuania – a region where, only a generation ago, people were subject to arbitrary detention and torture at the hands of Communist secret police.

Now, seven years on, the full story of Poland’s secret detention site is emerging.

Dick Marty, the Council of Europe’s former Rapporteur on Torture, told the BBC: “If I use the judicial standard of proof – and I used to be a magistrate – then I say ‘Yes, Mohammed was in Poland. Yes, he was tortured.'”

Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner on Human Rights, said he now believed detainees had been subjected to “intense torture” and called for prosecutions.

The CIA’s Inspector General, the internal watchdog, has said he was subjected to “183 applications of the waterboard” in a single month, one of the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” then used by the CIA.

At the heart of the counter-terrorism programme launched in the wake of 9/11, believed to be codenamed Greystone, was a decision to use secret detention sites to hold what it termed “high-value detainees”.

Dick Marty’s reports have described them as a “global spider’s web” of clandestine sites, linked by secret rendition flights.

The BBC has seen logs which confirm that executive jets leased by the CIA landed at the isolated Szymany airstrip in north-east Poland between December 2002 and September 2003.”

This is the 2007 report [a PDF] from the Council of Europe’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Secret detentions and illegal transfers of detainees involving Council of Europe member states: second report.

The AFP has more.

Update 1: I covered a similar point before in, China’s Black Jails.

Written by modernityblog

07/10/2010 at 13:29